8 qualities of great Experience Designers
To engineer a great design you must have great respect for all of the rules, and break them when they need to be broken, not just because you can. You also need to continuously learn about new interaction patterns, seek out interesting designs, and read up on up and coming methodologies in all areas that touch experience design. Working on your project alone will teach you more than you knew before, but won't be enough to sustain you in good ideas for long. Great designers are always seeking out the cutting edge of their discipline, and spend many hours reading, learning and practicing.
It can be tempting to cut corners when you have designed something a thousand times before. It's important to keep the rituals in place, and keep looking for a new way to do something, question everything until you are sure that it has a legitimate place in your design. Explore, find inspiration first, then ideate and find a solution. Don't get sloppy.
You must be attentive to the details, check your design, and communicate it effectively to the team. Wireframes should be clearly annotated and thorough, assets should be high quality, the end product should be excellent. You should be a master of your craft, at every stage of the design. This means that you need to identify any areas for improvement and actively work to get better at them all the time. The craft of experience design goes beyond deliverables such as wireframes, sketches, interactions, and so on, but also includes facilitation skills, communication skills, presentation skills, diplomacy, and more.
This means awareness of new technologies, design patterns, trends and so forth, but also awareness of the current project space. You are never designing a noun (an app, a shopping website...) you are designing a verb (shopping, discovering, enjoying...). Ensure that what you think you have been asked to make is really what the business and the users need. Make it your business to be aware of the full implications of what you are designing (does it impact the world in a positive way?). How is the evolution of the design being perceived by others? Are your stakeholders scared of your unusual design? Be ready to explain, show, convince at all times.
Take some time on each project to be alone. Even on a fast Agile, collaborative team. Even if it's just 10mins. On every project there are a lot of people to listen to and work with, from people in your team to people who will be using the product once it's made. I noticed that great experience designers take a little time alone on each project to think slow. Everyone I have ever met has an opinion on how a design should be. Has a decision been made because it's easier to agree and move along, or was it legitimately thought through? Do you really agree with the decisions that have been made? Are they really for the best?
Decide on what the end goal is for your design at the start, and focus on making it happen. This saves you from adding in unnecessary features, trying to design for too many needs, and making something that is a complicated Swiss army knife rather than a slick, easy to understand design. Define your design language and stay with it. Go for a colour or a set of principles and stay with them. It is important to be able to pivot and change course quickly, but it's also important to focus long enough on what you're doing so this can be sensibly judged.
At the start of a project there is always excitement, everything is new and shiny, full of potential. As you make your way on the path to completion, the best designers enthusiasm remains high, and they continue to commit themselves fully to the work. While we all have ups and down on projects, and it's important to acknowledge that there are low energy days, we still need to give ourselves to the work fully each day. Beware of situations where you have more than one project on the go, and be quick to voice any problems you see up ahead. It's all too easy to commit to more than one project and then see all of them turn out mediocre. This will exhaust you and you won't get the satisfaction you get from doing great work. Don't muddy the water. Dieter Rams during his whole career has been committed to particular principles of design. Do the same, even if your principles are different.
If you don't love the work you are doing, if you don't love the act of designing, you will never truly do any great work. It's really difficult to be focused and committed to something you don't genuinely have an interest in. All great designers of any ilk really do love what they do. If you don't, then find what it is you do love and go and do that. There's nothing satisfying about being mediocre at your job. Pure love for what you do is a nourishing thing, that helps you grow as a person and drives you to want to improve and break barriers. It lights up your life. There is a real blur between what is considered "work" and "play" when you love what you do.